Good Old Days

Ten years later, here’s what this Laverne Cox magazine cover represents

For the June 9, 2014 issue of TIME, Laverne Cox became the magazine’s first transgender cover star for a feature story on the state of trans rights. The magazine called the fight for trans rights “America’s next civil rights frontier,” and its reporting paints a picture of a growing culture of acceptance for trans folks, even in the face of conservative opposition.

Now, 10 years later, folks on the internet are reminiscing on the cover and what it represents: a time when America’s culture was hopeful for trans rights, a far cry from 2024 when more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced to date, as per the ACLU.

“It’s just depressing to think about how much trans rights have been restricted since this,” one user posted on X regarding the cover.

“2014-2018 was a sort of high water mark for trans rights in retrospect,” remarked another. “Weird little golden age.”

The difference is clear in Cox’s own thoughts on the topic, too. In 2014, she told TIME about the bright prospects of growing trans visibility.

“We are in a place now where more and more trans people want to come forward and say, ‘This is who I am,’” she said. “More trans people are willing to tell their stories. More of us are living visibly and pursuing our dreams visibly, so people can say, ‘Oh yeah, I know someone who is trans.’ When people have points of reference that are humanizing, that demystifies difference.”

“Some folks, they just don’t understand. And they need to get to know us as human beings,” Cox continued. “Others are just going to be opposed to us forever. But I do believe in the humanity of people and in people’s capacity to love and to change.”

But last year in 2023, Cox reflected on being on TIME’s cover and how much had changed in the decade since.

“When the TIME cover came along, it was in the context of me trying to use this moment to mean something. It wasn’t about me — it was about my community,” Cox told TIME. “In 2023, we are at the height of the backlash against trans visibility. We have way more people who are educated about trans folks, but there’s also been a rigorous misinformation media machine. … The backlash is ferocious. It’s genocidal.”

But the fundamental truths Cox raised in 2014 are still true today, even as trans rights have become a favorite punching bag for conservatives.

“Trans­gender people just want to exist,” Cox said. “Even in the face of the propaganda and the bills trying to banish our existence, we’ve managed to find each other.”

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